Natural setting

BROOKSVILLE — Gina Fote isn’t interested in painting sunrises or seascapes. It doesn’t do anything for her.

“Art is supposed to provoke you and make you feel things and think things,” Fote said recently, looking out over her backyard that extends back 17 acres, east of Brooksville. “Don’t you want to look at something and it speaks to you?”
Natural setting

Fote, 27, is a St. Petersburg native who moved to Brooksville three years ago. She lives with her boyfriend, two horses, a pig and other animals in the Spring Lake area. They raise tilapia, cultivate an organic garden and aspire to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Her home is her studio — for now — where she paints, creates in other mediums and fashions jewelry out of repurposed, vintage parts.

“I’ve been more productive as an artist here,” Fote said. “I’ve found that quiet, that peace. It’s just more pure here. I’m not distracted by the hustle and bustle of the city.”

Fote recently has shown her work at Art in the Park and the Florida Blueberry Festival, where she said judges were impressed with how she paints eyes. And though she did not receive an award, she was among final contenders in the juried show.

Fote said she is “testing the waters” this year and plans to hit the art circuit hard in 2015.

❖ ❖ ❖

As a self-taught artist from a family of creative people, Fote said she become serious about her painting in the last year or so. Working as a server and bartender wasn’t what she ultimately wanted, and Fote realized she needed to begin devoting more time to art — and finding a way to pay the bills.

That’s when she decided to give her talents a shot and realized that becoming a tattoo artist would help her continue to create — and free up time to paint.

Fote apprenticed and has been tattooing professionally for the past year and a half.

“My painting helps makes the tattoos more interesting; more dynamic, composition-wise,” Fote said, adding people today want tattoos that are more realistic and look more like paintings.

“It really has turned into art on the body,” Fote said.

And while Fote feels living in Brooksville has opened her up creatively, she’s hoping her hometown will become a more open space for artists — transcending age, style and experience.

She doesn’t know why there are not more people like her. “Is it a lack of artists, or are they too afraid of how people are going to perceive it?” Fote said.

Much like the way St. Petersburg has exploded with galleries during the past decade, Fote envisions Brooksville as a more diverse community where artists can showcase their work. “It (Brooksville) needs to be its’ own entity,” Fote said.

And she is ready to do her part. Eventually, Fote would like to open a gallery somewhere in Hernando County, a space where she can host shows and offer classes for existing artists and anyone else interested in flexing their creativity.

“If you do what you love, you will be taken care of, somehow,” Fote said. “It took a while to accept that thought, and it may take a few years of ramen noodles, but it’s worth it.”

Gina Fote can be reached at, or through her Facebook page, called Art by Gina Fote. She tattoos at Timequake Tattoo at 7366 Broad St. in Brooksville.

Horsin’ Around Summer Camp

BROOKSVILLE The Hernando County Parks and Recreation Department Horsin’ Around summer camp at Blair Performance Horses in Brooksville. For more information, call the department at (352) 754-4301 or Dorothy Blair at (352) 585-7928.
Horsin’ Around_Zowie Sigler, 9, rides Star, a 15-year-old Arabian mare, Wednesday morning during the Horsin’ Around camp at Blair Performance Horses in Brooksville – See more at:

Hernando County sheriff opposes medical marijuana

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis has joined the majority of sheriffs in Florida in opposing efforts to legalize medical marijuana.

Amendment 2 goes before voters in the form of a referendum in November.
Hernando County sheriff

“The legalization of marijuana will make this drug more readily available and easier to obtain by teens, as they would not need parental consent to get a ‘physician’s certification’ for marijuana,” Nienhuis said in a prepared statement.

“With no quality or dosage control, there is nothing in place to prevent these storefront marijuana dispensaries from selling to minors,” he said.

Nienhuis echoed his counterpart in Pasco County, Sheriff Nocco, who believes the medical marijuana referendum is a smokescreen. He said he doesn’t have a problem with legitimate uses for medical marijuana, such as Charlotte’s Web, the oil extract that is used to help those suffering from neurological or epileptic disorders.

“If the amendment was truly about and focused only on medicinal marijuana, like Charlotte’s Web, I would not oppose it,’’ Nocco said. “However, the real purpose of this amendment is for recreational marijuana to be legalized, which I oppose.”

The Florida Sheriff’s Association has vowed to mount a campaign to fight the measure.

Steve Zeledon, chairman of the Hernando County Democratic Executive Committee, said medicinal pot should be legal for humanitarian and economic reasons that would especially benefit Hernando County.

“It’s the elderly, the people who have really catastrophic illnesses who require the benefits of medical marijuana,” Zeledon said.

Also, legalizing medical pot would bring jobs to Hernando County, he said.

Zeledon said Sheriff Al Nienhuis, and other sheriffs in Florida seek to prevent the referendum from passing because they make money off incarcerating people arrested for possessing marijuana. In Hernando County, the sheriff’s office operates the Hernando County Jail.

“It’s in their economic interests to arrest more people and put them in jail,” he said.

Zeledon said he would eventually like to see marijuana legalized for recreational use and knows from experience that smoking pot is no less harmful than drinking alcohol. In some instances, it’s probably better, he said.

“My experience has been that people high on alcohol are abusive, rude and aggressive,” Zeledon said. “People who smoke marijuana are friendly, silly and hungry.”

Leading efforts to get the issue on the 2014 ballot is a group called United For Care, which said on its website that “doctors should have the freedom to recommend the treatment they deem appropriate for their patients — including medical marijuana.”

Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United For Care, took exception to the sheriff’s opposition.

“This is ironic, because the same organization just backed a very narrow strain of medical marijuana usable for epilepsy — so there is no dispute that marijuana is actually medicine,” Pollara said in a statement. “Apparently, they’re willing to turn their backs on all of the other patients who are in need.”

Backers obtained the necessary 683,189 signatures to get the referendum on the ballot. Hernando County Elections Supervisor Shirley Anderson said final tabulations showed 13,742 petitions were turned into her office. Of those, 10,693 were considered valid. The others were disqualified due to lack of information or incorrect data or failing to register.

Ann-Gayl Ellis, public information officer for the Department of Health in Hernando County, said her agency is not issuing a view one way or another at this time on medical marijuana.

“We’re going to follow the law and not speculate on any future action,” Ellis said.

(352) 544-5290

Brooksville golf tournament to raise funds for vets

Golfers will get a chance to give back to veterans while they play a round on Saturday.

The Partners for Patriots golf tournament at Silverthorn Country Club will raise funds to provide service dogs to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Brooksville golf tournament
A PTSD service dog is taught to draw close to its handler when anxiety attacks start and to redirect a handlerís focus when anger starts to rise. The Partners for Patriots golf tournament at Silverthorn Country Club will raise funds to provide service dogs to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. PARTNERS FOR PATRIOTS

Partners for Patriots is a new program founded in October 2013 by Mary Peter of Stillwater Dog Training in Brooksville.

Peter is a certified master dog trainer and has been training dogs professionally for the past 27 years. She has a heart for helping others in need. Her certification includes disability assistance dog training.

“I am just one person with a wonderful volunteer staff who has a heart for veterans suffering with PTSD,” Peter said. “It’s an unseen disability and these veterans are challenged constantly even when they have a service dog because they don’t “look” disabled. The need, however, is just as great as those with physical disabilities, just different.”

Peter started Partners for Patriots so that she could have a program to take to the community and ask for help so that many more veterans could be helped.

“I can’t do this alone,” said Peter. “The need for service dogs for veterans has become greater over the years and there are so many that need help now.”

Partners for Patriots does not charge a veteran anything for a service dog or its training or for the equipment needed for the service dog, including a service vest. A veteran must have an honorable discharge and proof of service related PTSD.

Peter explained that she loves to watch a veteran who has been unable to go out into society, or sometimes even leave their home, turn completely around in a very short period of time with a service dog.

“I’ve watched them go from sullen, angry and scared to proud and able to start pulling their life back to some normalcy,” said Peter. “Veterans tell me it’s giving veterans a second chance at life. That is now our motto. It’s my greatest blessing.”

The Partners for Patriots program is unique in that they work with veterans with dogs in small groups of 10 that may include other veterans and other clients coming to train their personal dogs.

“The veterans learn to participate in their dog’s training, giving both of them jobs to do, and they generally do them very well,” Peter said. “It helps the veteran to focus on the dog instead of their anxieties.”

A PTSD service dog is taught to draw close to its handler when anxiety attacks start and to redirect a handler’s focus when anger starts to rise.

“Each dog will respond differently and will learn when their handler needs help almost instinctively,” Peter said.

The length of training depends on how the veteran is handling the classes and how well he works with the dog. Training can take anywhere from two to eight months. The dogs live with the veterans through the whole training process.

Registration for the tournament begins at 8 a.m. with the play starting at 8:30 a.m. at the country club, 4550 Golf Club Lane in Brooksville.

Entry fees are $65 per player or $260 for a team of four.

The MacDill Air Force Base color guard will present the colors, along with the national anthem to honor veterans and kick off the tournament. A buffet luncheon and prizes will follow the tournament. For more information, call Mary Peter at (352) 232-7912 or visit

Hernando Today correspondent Heather Francis can be reached at

Brooksville gets $3.5 million in settlement with Southern Hills developer

BROOKSVILLE – Brooksville City Council received a check for more than $3.5 million this week, ending years of legal proceedings to recoup money owed the city by the bankrupt developer of Southern Hills Plantation Club.

Thomas Hogan from the Hogan Law Group, who represents the city, said his staff worked hard along with city staff to file a $6 million claim.

“You usually get pennies usually on the dollar, that’s about it. So we went into this thing not expecting a whole lot,” Hogan said.

City Attorney Clifford Taylor also explained when Crescent Resources, the company that began developing Southern Hills, filed for bankruptcy, the city became responsible for multiple developer agreements previously reached by the company.

Hernando Today previously reported LandMar Developers entered an agreement with the city in 2003 for improvements to Southern Hills, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008, stalling the project.

The city later foreclosed on developer agreements that year, and filed a lawsuit against Traveler’s Casualty and Surety Company and Chubb Group Insurance Companies.

“It was an uphill fight,” Hogan said. “It was quite a struggle, but you held your ground on principle, and you felt the City of Brooksville should be represented to do the right thing.”

Mayor Kevin Hohn, who lives in Southern Hills, remembered what the development has been through, and the progress being made.

“Those were dark days, we were scared we were going to lose our neighborhood … Southern Hills is coming back and we have many houses being built now and it’s all good,” Hohn said.

Hohn added a new developer has promised to build 185 homes, and other new builders are coming in.

“I hope that we don’t have another battle like this,” Council member Lara Bradburn said. “I know it eats at our guts the promises that were made by these developers weren’t worth the paper they were written on, but certainly their word, from the individuals who made those promises, are worth nothing.”

Also Monday:

♦ Property Appraiser John Emerson said the city’s taxable value has increased by 1.5 percent so far this year, setting it at approximately $320 million. Emerson said that increase was based on “little tweaks,” not on major rate improvements or land values. Emerson also said county commission purchased an old juice plant on city property, worth more than $300,000 in property values.

(352) 544-5283

Brooksville security guard charged with attempted murder

BROOKSVILLE – A part-time security guard at a Brooksville assisted living facility was arrested after beating two elderly residents in the face with a scissor jack early Thursday, Hernando County’s sheriff said.

Brian C. Murphy, 22, was arrested on charges of two counts of attempted murder with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and was being held without bail.

Sheriff Al Nienhuis, who addressed the media on Thursday afternoon, called the attacks “beyond brutal,” and described the event as follows:

Murphy most likely broke into Atria at Evergreen Woods shortly after midnight. He first went into Miriam Lepp’s room, and told the 88-year-old resident to not say anything “or he would do harm to her or kill her.”

Next, Murphy went into Joseph Giambrone’s room, and started beating the 83-year-old man with a heavy jack, which is used to lift vehicles when replacing a tire.

During the attack, Lepp pressed her call button. When nurse Amanda Sweatt responded to Lepp’s room, she saw Murphy beating her with the jack, and backed up and called the security guard on duty.

When Jonathan Sousa arrived, he immediately recognized Murphy as the weekend guard. Murphy took a swing at Sousa. Sousa avoided being hit and held Murphy down until deputies arrived about four minutes after a 911 call was placed.

The residents were taken to a trauma center by ambulance with life-threatening injuries.

They were in guarded condition, and both had sustained broken bones in the face, Nienhuis said.

“Seasoned detectives said that it was one of the more horrific crimes that they’ve seen, apparently very bloody and very gruesome,” Nienhuis said. “It’s really a miracle they’re still alive, frankly.”

About 12 hours into the investigation, Nienhuis said Murphy’s motives for the attack were still unclear. Investigators believe Murphy was under the influence of drugs, or addicted to drugs. The part-time security guard had been homeless about a month, Nienhuis said, and part of the motivation for breaking into the facility might have been to get food.

Nienhuis called the attacks “bizarre,” and said detectives had searched Murphy’s car for drugs or other evidence earlier in the day. The results were not immediately available.

Nienhuis said Murphy had left his car running outside the facility, parked a good distance away.

In a statement sent out late Thursday, Atria Senior Living said Murphy had been working at the facility for about four months, and passed a background test and drug screen at the time of his hire.

Murphy had not been arrested in Florida, but may have been arrested in New Jersey, Nienhuis said.

The sheriff believed the charges were dropped, and far less serious than the attempted murder charges he now faces in Hernando County.

Nienhuis also credited Sousa, the security guard on duty early Thursday, for subduing Murphy before deputies arrived.

“What he did was nothing less than heroic, he went unarmed against an individual who was armed with something that was very deadly,” Nienhuis said.

Susan Harris, executive director at Atria Senior Living Group, offered a brief statement to the media, but declined to answer questions.

“We’re saddened and horrified at the events that happened at Atria Evergreen Woods

last night. Our hearts go out to the families and the victims, and we’ll continue to work with law enforcement as long as needed,” Harris said.

When asked after the press conference, an Evergreen Woods representative said the facility is directly reaching out to family members of their residents.

Murphy will be arraigned on April 22, booking records show.

(352) 544-5283

Bakery manufacturer to get incentives to move here

BROOKSVILLE – Hernando County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to grant economic incentives for a new manufacturer to locate at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport & Technology Center.

Massachusetts-based Baker Parts, which makes industrial and commercial bakery equipment, plans to open a 24,000-square-foot facility at 16020 Aviation Loop Drive. The company plans to hire 30 full-time workers during the next three years, and the average annual wage is about $35,000, which qualifies it for the local Job Creation Incentives Program.

The total cost of the incentive package is $90,000, to be paid out during a five-year period. To be eligible for the incentives, the company would have to document the new jobs and the salaries.

Barring any obstacles, Baker Parts could start the expansion process as early as next month.

Also Tuesday:

??County commissioners threw their support behind a program that could lead to vocational training for higher-paying jobs in Hernando County.

Bryan Kamm, Florida chapter assistant director of the German American Chambers of Commerce, outlined a program modeled after one in Germany that brings together Tampa Bay manufacturers and industries, counties, economic development organizations and educational systems.

The goal is to form an apprenticeship program to fill vacancies in manufacturing positions and other careers.

Kamm said students and workers would be trained through Industry-driven Innovation Training Centers for three years.

The state would put out seed money for these centers, with participating counties contributing money – possibly $200,000 – to keep the program self-sustaining.

Kamm said Pasco County is already committed to the program.

??Circuit Court Clerk Don Barbee presented highlights of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending last Sept. 30. The report gives an economic and demographic overview of the county.

The CAFR shows Hernando County’s assets exceeded liabilities by $607 million. Of that, $53.1 million is unrestricted and available for the county to use at year’s end to meet its ongoing obligations to creditors and the public.

Hernando County’s population is about 173,800, an increase of almost 23 percent from 10 years ago, the report states. The county’s population is projected to be almost 182,400 in 2015 and more than 218,000 in 2025.

??Board members honored former public safety director Michael Rampino, recognizing his 26 years service with the county. Rampino resigned earlier this month and took a fire chief’s position in Manatee County.

The search is on for a new public safety director.

??Assistant County Administrator Russ Wetherington unveiled the new “Pat on the Back Employee Recognition Program,” scheduled to kick off Tuesday.

Wetherington said the program will recognize and reward employees for superior job performance, customer service and teamwork. Employees, he said, should view it as an incentive to “strive for excellence.”

The suggested employee recognition areas include: customer service, teamwork, integrity, leadership, positive attitude, creativity and going above and beyond.

(352) 544-5290

What’s up, Doc?

Only a minute fraction of Hernando County prep athletes have ever had the type of personal success on and off the field that John Franklin Emerson has enjoyed at Hernando High and beyond.

He was born in Tampa as the older of two boys to Frank and Joan Emerson. His father is a fixture with Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative while his mom is a guidance counselor.
John Emerson
John Emerson, a 2001 Hernando High graduate, has spent the past three years as a resident specializing in family medicine at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. COURTESY PHOTO

The Brooksville-based Emersons actually raised three children including a foster daughter, Lauren Moore.

Like most children, Emerson initially gravitated to baseball.

His diamond roots trace back to Hernando Youth League T-Ball. He alternated between center field and second base until high school.

The current 5-foot-9, 155-pounder also loved hoops.

“I thought I was better in basketball than anything else,” declared Emerson.

He participated in HYL basketball from second grade through middle school.

If that wasn’t enough, Emerson’s father encouraged him to run road races.

In a short time, he became a staple with the Red Mule Runners Club, competing at McKethan Lake and in the annual Flatlanders Race in Brooksville.

Interestingly, it was in a Fun Run at Flatlanders that he was introduced to Hernando High’s Hall of Fame cross country coach Ernie Chatman.

“I remember I was in a sprint to the finish and he must have seen me,” said Emerson. “He introduced himself and said I should run cross country when I get to high school.”

Little did Emerson know at that time that the distance running seed had been planted.

At Parrott Middle School, Emerson continued as a multi-sport athlete.

In hoops, he played point guard under Marion Jones in seventh grade before switching to shooting guard in eighth grade.

On the track, to feed his distance-running passion he concentrated in 1,600 meters as a seventh- and eighth-grader.

Upon matriculating to the Bell Avenue campus of Hernando, Emerson alternated his athletic path.

“I missed the basketball tryout as a freshman,” recalled Emerson. “When I looked in the mirror, I thought basketball was my No. 1 sport, but I made the decision to stick with cross country and track.”

Turning the clock back, Emerson says he has no regrets with that decision.

“I was good at it (running), but I needed some help,” Emerson said. “Coach Chatman was a great mentor to me. He has such a passion for running, it’s contagious.”

As a freshman, Emerson competed at the junior varsity level in three-mile races (5K wasn’t universally accepted until 2002).

In his first-ever 1997 competition – the Hudson Invitational – he managed to record a 19:22.00 clocking to finish fourth among the 11 Leopards in the meet. HHS placed third in the 14-team field.

He completed that inaugural campaign competing in eight junior varsity races behind a personal best of 17:50.00.

He steadily zoomed up the ladder to become first alternate for the Leopard team that captured the 16-team Class 4A FHSAA Finals in Jacksonville. HHS toppled runner-up Tampa-Jesuit, 67-91.

Amazingly, that team captured the sport’s four most prestigious titles: conference (Gulf Coast Athletic), district, regional and state. From that point, Emerson was absolutely hooked.

As a sophomore, Emerson was elevated to the varsity ranks. He competed in 11 meets and shaved his personal-best time to 16:24.00.

That team captured another GCAC crown, plus districts, but fell to Jesuit in regionals (27-32) and states (83-93).

Behind teammates Brian Major and Casey Isaac, Emerson was the third Leopard to cross the finish line in the GCAC Championship Meet at McKethan Lake placing 10th overall and earning the first of six All-GCAC honors.

As a junior, he felt ready for a breakout season. But prior to his third meet, a rain storm wiped out practice.

Instead of resting up, he and some buddies went out to play flag football on a slick field. He landed awkwardly and broke his right fibula and right ankle.

The injury was so severe, Coach Chatman was told afterward by one of the attending physicians that Emerson might never run again.

“It was brutal being on the sidelines, watching other guys compete,” lamented Emerson. “It turned out to be a source of motivation. As an athlete you take things for granted, especially when you’re not doing what you love.”

On the greatest lesson learned from that experience, “I haven’t played flag football since,” said Emerson. “From that point on, I took nothing for granted. If you have some ability, it’s not worth jeopardizing. That football game left a huge impact on my athletic career.”

After getting medically cleared, Emerson returned to his second season of track and field under Rodney Byrd. He got back into good enough shape to run a 4:40 mile.

As a senior, Emerson did not hold back.

Over 10 cross country meets, Emerson was far and away the team leader. He captured the loaded GCAC Championship at McKethan behind a personal-best 15:23.00.

He concluded his senior campaign placing seventh at states (15:49.00) at Titusville – achieving first-team All-State honors.

“It was a great year. My goal was to win a state championship,” summed up Emerson. “I thought I started to peak at the conference meet. I ran well in districts, regionals and states. Winning at McKethan (at GCAC) in that stud field was absolutely my highlight. I raced against some awesome guys that I really respected; what an experience.”

Oddly enough in his third varsity season of track and field, instead of being named All-GCAC in the 4×800 like he was as a sophomore and junior, Emerson was tabbed All-GCAC in two events: the mile and two-mile.

“It was a little disappointing because I didn’t make states in the two-mile,” he recalled. “I ran OK.”

? ? ?

After a dazzling prep career, the 2001 graduate Emerson accepted a full athletic scholarship to Lakeland’s Division II Florida Southern College.

The Moccasins’ track and field emphasis was to better prepare for its best sport – cross country – which fit Emerson just fine.

Despite competing at the eight-kilometer level in college in the rugged Sunshine State Conference, the Mocs claimed four straight conference titles.

Additionally, Emerson was named All-SSC four times and named All-Region as a senior.

“I definitely had to adjust to college, especially in my mileage,” pointed out Emerson in the difference between HHS and Florida Southern. “It was an awesome experience. We were so talented that basically we had targets on our backs in every meet we competed.

“UT (University of Tampa) was really close to us, especially during my junior year. We had some memorable battles,” he said. “I’m proud of all my teammates.”

Academically, Emerson was no slouch. In the classroom, he earned his bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry and English.

It was at the Polk County campus that he made another pivotal decision: to opt for graduate school and later apply for medical school.

He applied for med school in August 2007, before being accepted by USF. After two years of clinical work, Emerson spent his last two years in a hospital rotation.

In 2011, across the next part of his medical apprenticeship, he awaited word on where he would be placed for his National Residency Program.

Emerson ranked which hospitals he would have liked to work at, though the decision is partly based on his specialty – family medicine – and whether his choice of hospitals had a vacancy.

Good fortune again befell Emerson as his No. 1 choice – Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. – became a reality.

He’s been in Tar Heel country for over three years. He elected to further branch out and do some of his training in research and family development. His current duties are similar to the ones of characters from the sitcom “Scrubs.”

“I want to be Dr. Cox,” said Emerson, referring to the experienced doctor portrayed by John C. McGinley on the show. “That’s basically what I do now; I teach the residents.”

Born with a slight birth defect, Emerson feels he can give back to those less fortunate.

“In a way the birth defect has helped motivated me – I guess that’s why I’m so passionate about my medical career,” he said. “There are very few careers where you can impact the quality of someone’s life. To me, medicine has been a great match.”

While studying late one night with another pediatric resident, Sara Ryder, he asked the Williamsport, Pa., native if “maybe we should get together for a milk shake.”

A romance soon blossomed. Ryder, a former tennis player, is Emerson’s current long-term girlfriend. According to Emerson, she’s “very supportive in everything I do.”

Emerson believes he’s struck a balance in his life. In his spare time, he still enjoys running 2-3 times a week.

“In terms of working hard and working toward a universal goal, you have to sacrifice,” detailed the 31-year-old Emerson on tracing his success back to HHS. “Without a doubt, the work I put in to get better as an athlete at Hernando really helped me prepare for the rigors of med school. There are a lot of similarities.”

Emerson believes he’s leaving a calling card for others to follow.

“I was a good leader, especially as a senior at Hernando and at Florida Southern,” he said of his legacy. “I struck a chord helping to guide younger runners. Being a leader and pushing the team to move forward and get better – that’s what I hope I’m remembered for.”

By the numbers: John Emerson at Hernando (1997-2001)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Cross Country


1998-99* 11 16:14.00

1999-00 2/INJ. 15:57.00

2000-01*#$ 10 15:23.00

TOTALS 23 15:23.00

* Denotes All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference selection.

# Denotes All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Runner of the Year.

$ Denotes All-State First Team.

Track and Field


1998-99* 4×800

1999-00* 4×800

2000-01* 1,600 meters

2000-01* 3,200 meters

* Denotes All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference selection.

Woman gets 5 months for telling judge she works for DEA

BROOKSVILLE – A 36-year-old Spring Hill woman was arrested in a Hernando County courtroom Thursday after misrepresenting herself as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

During a domestic violence hearing in front of Circuit Judge Stephen Toner, Jo Leigh Allen said she was a federal DEA agent.
Jo Leigh Allen
Jo Leigh Allen

Judge Toner stopped the hearing, according to the sheriff’s office, and asked deputies to investigate her claim.

After finding out Allen was not in drug enforcement, Toner found her in direct civil contempt and sentenced her to 5 months and 29 days in the Hernando County Jail.

Court records show Allen filed the petition for a domestic violence injunction on Jan. 3. Records also show Allen filed an injunction in December, which was later dismissed.

Allen was arrested on charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle in November, and spent 33 days in the jail before prosecutors dropped the charges.

In the past, Allen has been convicted of falsely reporting a crime, driving with a suspended license, felony petit theft, grand theft, possession of a controlled substance, DUI, fleeing and eluding police, resisting an officer, possession of cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to sell.

Two officers resign, are arrested for stealing tax-dollars from separate funds

BROOKSVILLE – A sergeant and a deputy with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office resigned and were charged with felony grand theft after two criminal investigations found they stole money from separate accounts, including one established for the widow of a captain killed in the line of duty.

Sgt. Joseph Reid, 41, was charged with grand theft of more than $300 and less than $20,000; and Deputy Michael Glatfelter, 51, was charged with third-degree grand theft and third-degree organized scheme to defraud.

Confronted with the allegations Thursday, Reid and Glatfelter immediately resigned from the sheriff’s office. Prosecutors subsequently leveled the criminal charges.

The joint investigation by the sheriff’s and local state attorney’s offices also found that newly-promoted Vice and Narcotics Unit Cap. Tom Garcia was aware Reid stole at least $1,500 in vice-issued money, and that Garcia used his own money to cover up Reid’s theft.

Garcia was not charged with a crime or disciplined by sheriff’s investigators. He is on paid administrative leave, Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis said at a news conference Friday.

The sheriff said his office has no indication of criminal wrongdoing by Garcia. “There are obviously some major concerns about some policy violations,” said Nienhuis. “Now that the criminal cases are winding down, we’ll begin the internal administrative cases and take appropriate action based on what we find there.”

The sheriff’s investigation concluded Reid used the vice-issued currency for personal use as far back as June 2011, and records include log books with entries for suspicious purchases.

Another investigation found Glatfelter, treasurer of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 164 from 2006-10, stole a total of $8,300 for personal items ranging from tobacco to electronics to groceries.

The most blatant transaction came one year after Glatfelter stepped down as treasurer, investigators reported, when he took $1,100 from the Scott Bierwiler Memorial Fund.

That fund was established to help the widow, two daughters, and son of Cap. Scott Bierwiler, who died Feb. 19, 2009, at age 42 in a head-on collision with a Nature Coast High School student.

“Today I have the very, very distasteful task of releasing some details into two separate criminal investigations,” Nienhuis told reporters at Friday’s news conference. “This betrayal of trust has left me angry; it’s left me frustrated, but most of all it’s made me disappointed.”

Reid and Glatfelter turned themselves in at Citrus County Jail on Friday morning. Both deputies have arrested inmates now held at Hernando County Jail and thus were booked in Citrus for their own protection, sheriff’s officials said.

Nienhuis said monies entrusted to Glatfelter in the Scott Bierwiler Memorial Fund are nearly depleted, and he thinks, because the state attorney’s office is involved, restitution will be sought in the case.

“Why that money wasn’t given to (Bierwiler’s widow), I don’t know,” Nienhuis said. “We’ll do everything we can to make sure that money goes to the right place.”

The arrested deputies’ personnel records indicate the men were stand-up law enforcement officials with a combined 57 commendations and only one written reprimand – against Glatfelter in 2008 for failing to complete a fatality crash report.

“Thank you for the opportunity to serve this county and the people who live here,” Glatfelter wrote in a resignation letter he submitted Thursday.

He made $58,492 annually and had been with the sheriff’s office since 1989, records show. He was a member of the Livestock and Crisis Response teams.

Reid signed a resignation letter stating he will receive about 172 hours of accrued pay at his current annual salary of $55,841 in exchange for a complete and unconditioned waiver of all rights and remedies.

He began working at the sheriff’s office in 2001. He was a patrol officer, vice detective, and sergeant with the Vice and Narcotics Unit.

Both men, if convicted of the criminal charges, face up to five years in prison and $5,000 fines, Nienhuis said. Meanwhile, the sheriff said, his office must deal with damaged trust among citizens already weary of, and not surprised by, corruption in law enforcement.

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